Be a mental health champion for your workforce

  • Occupational Health
Kate Palmer FCIPD - Director of HR Advice and Consultancy at global employment law consultancy, Peninsula.

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director

(Last updated )

Amid a cost of living crisis, money worries are on everyone’s mind. And we need to be mindful of how the current climate is impacting mental health.

Now, more than ever, mental health should be a priority at work. If it’s not, you risk jeopardising the productivity, health, and loyalty of valuable workers.

On 10th October, it’s World Mental Health Day. To be a supportive, mental health champion in your workplace, here’s what you need to do…

1. Make physical changes to your work environment

Ask yourself - how can you make your workplace a better environment for mental health? There are a few physical changes you can make to your workplace to help staff who are struggling, like:

  • creating a quiet room for them to visit if they feel overwhelmed and need a break 
  • offering reserved parking spaces so they can drive instead of commute (which might be less stressful for them)
  • moving workstations so they’re in a more comfortable spot, maybe by a window or closer to other colleagues so they have fresh air and don’t feel isolated
  • providing private offices/room dividers to give them more privacy or quiet time

2. Setting up an employee wellbeing policy

Also, consider setting up an employee wellbeing policy.

An employee wellbeing policy recognises that workers may face issues or events in life that can negatively impact their performance. And it should encourage staff to ask for support if they need it.

In your policy, you might want to:

  • outline support options available to staff
  • outline flexible working provisions (if applicable)
  • detail fitness opportunities (if applicable) like discounted gym memberships or access to company sports facilities
  • outline information around career breaks or sabbaticals
  • provide tips on how to create a positive work-life balance

3. Offering an EAP service

Mental health challenges affect people in different ways. So, it’s important to check in on your workers individually to see what kind of support they need.

The best way to make sure you’re providing staff with the right support is by having an employee assistance programme (EAP).

An EAP service provides third-party support to your staff that may include:

  • face-to-face counselling
  • professional helplines
  • online wellbeing resources

With an EAP, your workers can access a confidential mental health service for free whenever they need it. So, you have peace of mind knowing you can focus on your business whilst your workers are receiving expert care.

If there’s ever a personal or work issue that’s distressing your employee, they can get professional help to manage it. This may prevent issues from escalating and having a negative impact on their performance or health.

4. Allowing flexible working

Having the option to work flexibly can be a huge help to staff who are struggling with their mental health. It can take away the pressure if they need to work fewer hours, start a bit later, or work from home.

Flexible working can also help staff put their health first, so they have the best chance of doing their best work. A study by Flexjobs found that 97% of staff felt that a flexible job had a positive impact on their quality of life.

If you offer flexible working, you may allow staff to:

  • reduce their working hours
  • start work earlier/later and finish earlier/later
  • take time off for medical appointments
  • work from home
  • take longer or more frequent breaks

5. Managing their workload

Employees who are struggling with their mental health might struggle to manage their workload. This is especially likely if they’re finding it hard to focus or they have too much on.

You can make workloads more manageable for staff by taking steps to:

  • reduce the amount of work (you may need to reassign certain tasks to other workers)
  • help them prioritise certain tasks and manage their time more effectively

Workload is typically listed as the most major cause of work-related stress. So, adjusting this could be a massive weight off your worker’s shoulders (quite literally).

6. Supervising them

Mental health issues can make people feel isolated. If your employee is struggling, they might disconnect from work. This is why it’s important to keep checking in on staff and give them regular, constructive feedback.

One-to-one support is vital for any employee who is struggling. When you pay attention to your worker and provide regular constructive feedback, you help keep them on track. It also means you’re there if they need a helping hand with anything or they need to take a break.

Supervision (when done in a non-intimidating way) can make it easier to look after your worker’s wellbeing and identify any issues early on.

Get mental health training from the experts

Mental health issues present a lot of challenges to staff and the companies they work for. So, if you want to offer the best support to your staff, consider taking mental health first aid training.

With mental health first aid training, you can learn how to support your workers, reduce absences, and spot signs of a mental health issue. This ensures your staff can get the treatment they need to stay healthy and happy.

To learn more about how your business can benefit from mental health first aid training, call 0800 029 4393 or click here.

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